Uzbekistan is located in the center of Central Asia. This country has a rich history and culture, and, of course, as any independent state Uzbekistan has a national currency – Uzbek Soum (sometimes transliterated as sum or s´om) (UZS).
The history of Uzbekistan currency
From 1500 to 1785 on the territory of modern Uzbekistan (as well as other countries of Central Asia) there was the Khanate of Bukhara. The capital of the Khanate was Bukhara and its official currency was Bukharan tenga.
The main coin was the silver tenga (or tanga), but its smaller unit was a “falsa” (or “falus”), also known as “copper pūl”. However, both tenga and pūl didn’t have a standard weight, because they were minted in several mints. As for the gold coins, they were minted irregularly.
From 1785 to 1868 and from 1917 to 1920 the Emirate of Bukhara existed on the same territory. It was an independent state with the same capital city – Bukhara, and the Bukharan tenga remained as the official currency of the Emirate.
However, when Emir Shah Murad came to power, he launched a major monetary reform that changed the whole monetary system. Almost everything was changed: sampling, minting technique, inscriptions on the coins and most importantly the size and weight of the coins. Now the coin had to weight 7/10 of mithqal (3.36 grams). The coins with different weights that were used previously were prohibited by the Emir. Besides, the Emirate started to mint gold coins regularly and any transaction could be held using both gold and silver coins.
From 1868 until 1917, the territory of the Emirate was under the protectorate of the Russian Empire. This fact obviously influenced the currency of the state. In 1890, Alexander III issued a decree according to which the Bukharan tenga was withdrawn from circulation.
In 1893, the exportation of the Bukharan tenga was totally banned. Now it could only be used in the Trans-Caspian region and in Khiva. In 1904 – 1905, the minting of the Bukharan tenga was completely stopped.
In 1918, the Emirate began to issue paper money. This money was printed manually and stamps were attached to the paper.
In 1920 Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic was proclaimed and existed until October 27, 1924. During this period paper rubles were issued as the official currency of the Republic. Nevertheless, this period was very ambiguous regarding the currency. Both the Bukharan ruble and the Bukharan tenga (as well as other metal and paper coins) were in circulation simultaneously. Despite twice held reforms, the Bukharan tenga was in use, because local financial institutes continued accepting it for tax payments.
From 1925 until 1991, there was Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic on the territory of Modern Uzbekistan. In 1925 Samarkand became the capital of Uzbek SSR, but in 1930 it was changed for Tashkent. The official currency of Uzbek SSR was the USSR ruble.
Today’s Uzbekistan currency
On August 31, 1991, Uzbekistan seceded from the USSR and became an independent state. Today’s Uzbekistan currency is Uzbek Soum (s´om, sum or som).
The Uzbek Soum was put into circulation on November 15, 1993. It was introduced in the form of soum-coupons and was used in parallel with the Soviet ruble. However, since July 1 of 1994, Uzbek money (soums) became the only legal means of payment in Uzbekistan.
On July 2, 2018, new coins were issued with par value of 500, 200, 100 and 50 soums. Therefore, old-style coins and banknotes became subject to gradual withdrawal from circulation. From July 1, 2019, coins and banknotes of 50 and 100 Uzbek soums issued between 2000-2009 and 1994 model, respectively, were completely withdrawn from circulation. And before July 1, 2020, it is planned to withdraw 200 and 500 Uzbek Soum banknotes.
On February 25, 2019, a banknote of 100,000 soums was issued.
Exchange Rate Mode
Since August 20 of 2019, according to the Central Bank of Uzbekistan, the Uzbek soum has become a floating currency. Which means that the exchange rate fluctuates depending on the foreign exchange market.
In September of 2017, currency liberalization took place, thereby market and bank rates were equalized. Now the Uzbek currency can be exchanged at any bank, at the airport or in currency exchange points. The course is about the same everywhere.
Until 2017, market and bank exchange rates were very different. The bank rate was almost 2 times lower than the market rate. In this regard, it was possible to exchange money at the airport and at banks at a low rate or using private exchange services at a higher rate, but there were frequent complaints of fraud. However, private currency exchange was illegal and it was very difficult to exchange money.
It is also important to note that taxis and other local services could be paid only with the Uzbek currency. Now you can freely exchange US dollars, euros, yen and pounds. Although the situation can be more complicated with the Russian ruble, the Kyrgyz som and the Kazakh tenge.
Where to exchange Uzbek soums?
It is not recommended to exchange money in a taxi. If you need to pay for a taxi, then exchange a small amount at the airport, enough just to reach your destination. It is preferably to exchange larger amounts directly in the city where you are going to stay.
Also note that banks and exchange offices do not accept worn, old, crumpled and torn banknotes. They also do not accept banknotes with handwritten inscriptions.
It is especially not recommended to immediately exchange large amounts, because if you don’t spend all the Uzbek soums during the trip, you probably won’t be able to exchange them back to your currency. American express Traveler Checks are also not recommended, it is impossible to exchange them on acceptable terms, because they carry considerable fees.
Currency exchange points in Uzbekistan are open from 8:00 to 18:00, and there are also 24-hour points in some hotels. Banks are open from 9:00 to 16:00 with a lunch break from 13:00 to 14:00.
Also, we want to remind you that if you are importing into the country more than 2000 USD, (or the equivalent amount in another currency), you must fill out a declaration. Losing the copy of the declaration is fraught with problems. If you lose it, you won´t be able to leave Uzbekistan with more than $2000. If you have a smaller amount with you, then you are not obliged to fill out the declaration.
Do you know any tips and tricks about exchanging Uzbek currency? Please, share with us in the comment below!
If you want to know more about Central Asian countries, read our blog! If you are planning to visit Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, browse our database of local tourist service providers and find [verified] guides, drivers, accommodation, activities and tours organized by local professionals! Discover Central Asia with us!